Thursday, July 18, 2013

Augusta County needs data on nutrient pollution

The Augusta County Board of Supervisors is considering joining a nutrient monitoring program to get factual information on the amount of agricultural and non-point pollution entering the Middle and South rivers. This pollution, of course, travels downstream to other counties and eventually into the Chesapeake Bay.

The U.S. Geological Survey will provide equipment to monitor sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus over a three year period. The EPA has assured officials that the program will be accepted in setting the watershed model for the Chesapeake Bay.

All sounds good, right? Free equipment and accurate data to drive future decisions. Well, some supervisors say not so fast. The hangup is the $85,000 annual cost to properly conduct the monitoring. One member of the board, Larry Wills, is seeking state funding and/or cost sharing with downstream Rockingham County but apparently he has come up dry so far.

Even Rep. Bob Goodlatte seems to support a monitoring program because of the up-to-date data it will provide. But, in typical Bobblehead Bob talking out of both sides of his mouth fashion, he doesn't want the data to actually accomplish anything, saying the Chesapeake Bay model is flawed.

With a 2025 deadline approaching for Virginia's blueprint for cleaning up the Bay, we need all the data we can get to make accurate, scientific decisions. Yes, the Commonwealth should be picking up some or most of the tab for localities but even without that funding Augusta County should move forward now. Costs of monitoring and restoring our streams and rivers will only increase in the future and decision makers need quality information sooner rather than later. Plus, plenty of Augusta residents fish, swim, and canoe in these popular local rivers.

Perhaps Mr. Wills can explore the possibility of working with organizations that have trained volunteers to do the water monitoring to help trim some costs. Organizations like Friends of the Shenandoah River and Friends of Middle River have been doing just that for years.

Check out CCC's earlier posts on the South River and Middle River.

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